The Arctic sea ice has reached its winter maximum for the year -- the sixth lowest maximum on record -- at the same time that weird, chilly spring weather in the northern hemisphere has many people wondering if there is a connection to the Arctic changes.
The answer is yes and no, according to scientists monitoring the ice as well as those trying to figure out how it affects the rest of the planet.
The sea ice maximum was reached on March 15, and despite being the high point of sea ice for the year, its lower than average extent and some remarkable mid-winter cracking of the sea ice has researchers concerned.
"There is cracking every year when the ice is pushed by the winds and currents," said Walter Meier, of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. "But this was particularly extreme. Qualitatively, this seems like the biggest."
Instead of a few narrow cracks, powerful winter storms led to a number of large cracks, hundreds of meters wide, that stretched all across the Arctic.
The cracks quickly froze shut, but that refrozen ice would have to be thinner than the ice that cracked, which itself was just first-year ice that started building up in September or October. The resulting patched together ice sheet would naturally be more vulnerable to melting in the summer.